The causes of persistent or recurrent abdominal pain are many. Pain may originate either from the gut itself or other abdominal organs including the gall-bladder, pancreas, kidneys, ovaries or uterus (womb). The place where abdominal pain is felt is not always a reliable guide to the source of the pain, but a careful assessment about the characteristics of the pain allows a gastroenterologist to focus investigations appropriately.
Pain may be a sign of something structurally wrong, or inflammation in an abdominal organ, but can often also be due to abnormal functioning of an organ, or abnormal functioning of the gut nervous system, without a structural problem being present, as for example in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other so-called "functional" gut disorders. These disorders are among the most common digestive problems seen by gastroenterologists, and both the understanding and evidence-based treatments for these conditions have improved considerably in recent years.